The Ultimate House Cleaning Guide

By Kealia Reynolds

Whether you’re looking to clean out your house this spring or just want to get into more of a routine of clearing clutter around your home, here are a few tips to help you stay organized.

Start big and declutter

One of the most important things you should do when cleaning your house is to address clutter. The act of decluttering and purging unnecessary belongings from our homes is often easier planned for, described, and anticipated than it is done. Many of us find it difficult to part with sentimental items like photos and notes and clothes that evoke a specific memory, but many of us also find it hard to part with things we know we can do without.

Knowing how to declutter doesn’t come naturally to all: Maybe you can’t stand the thought of parting with that old box of photos or that shirt you haven’t worn in years (but you want to keep it anyway because it looked so great that one time you wore it). As tempting as it may seem to accept that your life (and home) will always be chaotic, know that decluttering your home actually reduces anxiety and stress and minimizes the time you spend cleaning your house on the regular.

When determining how to declutter your home, there are certain pillars of decluttering to keep in mind:

  • When decluttering, it’s best to organize your stuff into three piles: One for keeping, one for donating, and one for throwing away.
  • If you haven’t used something in a year, either move it to a more convenient spot where you will use it or get rid of it.
  • To prevent your space from becoming a cluttered mess, store small items (like notepads, pencils, spice jars, books, and medicine) in bins or boxes—not only does this keep surfaces free of clutter, it also makes dusting a whole lot easier.
  • If kids are around, you may want to consider postponing the decluttering process—every single toy becomes a favorite, making it harder to give stuff away. If you want to include your kids in the decluttering process, have them help by picking out five toys they can live without. Give these toys to a friend with smaller children or to used toy drives.

After clearing out your house, avoid the dumpster as much as possible. Here are some of the most common clutter culprits and alternate uses.

  • Pens/markers—If you have children, put pens and markers in a craft bin. You could also drop off these supplies at a local school or bring them to your work.
  • Books—Take books to a local literacy council or school or donate them to a library.
  • Clothes—Goodwill is always a great spot for extra clothes, but consider also battered women’s shelters, churches, or refugee organizations.
  • Furniture—Since most furniture items can’t just be left on the curb, reach out to a local church or non-profit organization to see if there’s a family that needs a mattress, couch, dining room set, etc.

Go room by room and organize

Now that all of the clutter is cleaned out from your house, organize each room to maximize the space. For example, if your garage is all out of sorts, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a professional cleaning service to get the space in order—you can do it all yourself.

Before you step foot in a home improvement store or container store, take some time to decide what you want out of your garage. Does it need to be a place for your children to play, with storage for chalk and other outdoor toys? Or, do you need space for car care and maintenance products because you’ve invested in a luxury car?

Think about your garage space and remember these important tips when organizing your garage:

  • Plan, plan, plan—Get out some paper and draw what you want your ideal garage storage to look like. Include sections for each category of item and consider the best way to store those items.
  • Consider a system that can be rearranged—Two years down the road, you don’t want to walk into the garage and realize it’s no longer the optimal design. With track systems and other garage storage systems, you can usually rearrange the hooks and racks to best fit your current needs.

After organizing, give your garage the deep cleaning it’s been desperate for by going from ceiling to floor. Follow these quick steps to have your garage cleaned up and sanitized in no time:

  • Start by dusting shelves and the garage door tracks and motor.
  • Move on to wiping down the walls of the garage with a damp cloth and mild soap.
  • Sweep the floor of dust and dirt. Hose down the floor and use dish soap to mop it, being careful not to slip on the slick surface.
  • For tough stains like motor oil, you may need to use a special cleaner or try a homemade option with dish soap and kitty litter. Give your floors two to five hours to dry completely. You can also use this time to set up preventative pest control to fight off roaches or rodents.

Another big area of your house that could use some additional cleaning love is the closet. Attempting to organize closet space can be a daunting challenge. We’ve all been there—staring at mounds of clothes piled so high that one wrong move could send them toppling, trying to pair mismatched shoes strewn across the floor, and spending more than 30 minutes trying to untangle necklaces from bracelets from rings.

Remove everything from your closet—hangers, clothes, boxes, etc.—and lay them out on a clean sheet to be organized into piles. Then, create a donation pile and include clothes that aren’t stained, haven’t been worn in over a year (formal clothes are an exception), are unflattering, or are uncomfortable. Once you’re finished adding clothes to the donation pile, put the items in a trash bag and consider dropping them off at a Goodwill or local women’s shelter. 

Before putting clothes and shoes back into your closet, give the space a thorough cleaning. Though an empty closet can be considered “clean,” there’s still room to wipe down shelves and racks and vacuum or mop the closet floor. Get rid of any trash you find during this cleaning process, like clothing tags, store receipts, and empty shopping bags.

After you finish cleaning, be intentional about putting the items you use most in easily accessible places. Store your most-used items at eye level, less-used items below, and least-used items on higher shelves. For example, if you have a 9–5 job that consumes most of your week, hang work clothes at eye level, casual clothes a level below, and special occasion clothing in the back of your closet.

Approach the mundane tasks with an open mind

To truly remove all of the dirt and grime from certain areas of your house, get specific with your cleaning habits and target specific areas of each room.

Dust your blinds

Dirty blinds can harbor dust, pet fur, and other allergens that affect the indoor air quality of your home. Fortunately, cleaning blinds is easy and can be done within an hour. Before cleaning your blinds, determine what type of material they’re made of. Most are made from wood, fabric, or plastic. For horizontal blinds (or venetian blinds), work top to bottom. For vertical blinds, work left to right, starting at the top, and slowly make your way toward the bottom.

Remove pet hair

Try a vacuum specifically made to tackle the problem of pet hair. You can clean daily and more quietly with a microfiber or electrostatic dry mop. Quick, simple, and less strenuous than vacuuming, a mop can give you a thorough clean as often as you’d like without the trouble. Avoid sweeping with a broom, which will spread pet hair even more than a vacuum.

Vacuum carpets and rugs

The secret to thoroughly cleaning your carpets and rugs is investing in a high-quality vacuum with a HEPA filter. Powerful suction and a filter that prevents releasing hair and dander back into your home will make your vacuum an indispensable tool in the never-ending battle against pet hair invasion. We recommend vacuuming every two or three days.

A bit more strenuous than vacuuming, sweeping with a rubber broom or squeegee gives you a satisfying clean, especially in high traffic areas. For persistent pet hair, sprinkle baking soda over your carpets before you clean to help loosen the hair from carpet fibers.

If you’re short on time, invest in a robotic vacuum and program it to sweep through your entire house while you’re at work.

Wipe down tables

Pet hair isn’t the only thing you’ll see collecting on your coffee tables and nightstands. Dust and dander are especially conspicuous on wood furniture and can cause allergic reactions in some people. You can stay on top of pet hair and dust on your surfaces by wiping them down with a damp microfiber or cotton cloth. Beware of dry dusting, which just pushes dust and hair around.

Clean your upholstery and furniture

Take a quick pass over your upholstered furniture with the same damp microfiber or cotton cloth you used on your wood furniture—be sure to rinse the cloth frequently to avoid spreading hair around. You can also use a lightly damp sponge or lightly water-spritzed rubber gloves. You can prevent pet hair from ever getting on your furniture by spreading a washable slipcover or blanket on the furniture where you allow your pets.

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